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Syrians Risk Lives for Secret Library

When a place has been besieged for years and hunger stalks the streets, you might think that people would have little interest in books. But enthusiasts have stocked an underground library in Syria with volumes rescued from bombed buildings—as users dodge shells and bullets to reach it. Buried beneath a bomb-damaged building, is a home to a secret library that provides learning, hope, and inspiration to many in the besieged Damascus suburb of Darayya. As one user says, "We saw that it was vital to create a new library so that we could continue our education."

Since the war, volunteers—many of them also former students whose studies were brought to a halt by the war—have collected more than 14,000 books on just about every subject imaginable. "In many cases we get books from … near the front line, so collecting them is very dangerous," says one of the collectors.

The idea of people risking life and limb to collect books for a library seems bizarre. But volunteers at the hospital use the books to advise them on how to treat patients, untrained teachers use them to help prepare classes, and aspiring dentists raid the shelves for advice on doing fillings and extracting teeth.

But in a besieged town wouldn't it make more sense for them to spend their time looking for food rather than books? One of the library users said, "In a sense the library gave me back my life. I would say that just like the body needs food, the soul needs books. Books motivate us to keep on going. We want to be a free nation. And hopefully, by reading, we can achieve this."

Possible Preaching Angles: Word of God; Bible; Do we as Christians hunger and thirst for God's Word like these endangered Syrians hunger for knowledge? Would we risk our lives to own and read the Bible in order to find hope and meaning for life?

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